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Pasadena-Area’s Fallen Warriors, Their Families Honored on Gold Star Mother’s Day

Sunday is a day to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter while serving in the United States Armed Forces

Published on Sunday, September 27, 2020 | 4:47 am
 
The Enduring Heroes Monument at Defenders Park in Pasadena is adorned with a patriotic COVID-19 mask in an undated photo. (Credit: Jaynie Studenmund)

“As has often been said, it’s a club. You do not want to be a member of,” Pasadena Gold Star Mother Jaynie Studenmund said.

It’s been just over six years since her son, Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Scott Studenmund, gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation while fighting in Gaza Village, Afghanistan on June 9, 2014, just days short of his 25th birthday.

Since World War I, the final Sunday in September has been set aside as Gold Star Mother’s Day, to recognize the sacrifices of the mothers who have lost children in military service.

I think it is really a beautiful tradition,” Jaynie Studenmund said. “There is a special bond amongst Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families.”

“The young men who we have lost are incredible people,” she said. “To decide in today’s world that a cause is bigger than themselves, that they’re willing to give their life for. It tells you a lot about our combat warriors. They’re, they’re just a breed apart.”

Scott Studenmund graduated from Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge before continuing his education at Occidental College and Pitzer College.

He put his schooling on hold to enlist in the Army in 2009, joining the elite special forces unit known as the Army Rangers, or the Green Berets.

“He really wanted to be in the special forces,” his mother said. “Only about 15% make it through 18 months of rigorous programs. Then he passed every stage on the first try and the year he became a Green Beret, he was the second-youngest in the nation at just about 20.”

His name is now emblazoned, along with those of 10 other fallen warriors from the Pasadena-area, on the Enduring Heroes Monument at Defenders Park, 50 W. Colorado Blvd. They hailed from Pasadena, Altadena, San Marino, La Cañada-Flintridge, and South Pasadena.

They are:

• Army First Lieutenant, Todd J. Bryant, 23 – Khalidiya, Iraq, 10/31/03

• Marine Second Lieutenant JP Blecksmith, 24 – Fallujah, Iraq, 11/11/04

• Marine Lance Cpl, Dion M. Whitley, 21 – Ramadi, Iraq, 6/15/05

• Marine Lance Cpl, Sergio H. Escobar, 18 – Ramadi, Iraq, 10/9/05

• Army Reserve Specialist, Carla Jane Stewart, 37 – Tallil, Iraq, 1/28/07

• Army Specialist, Adam J. Rosema, 27 – Baquba, Iraq, 3/14/07

• Army Private First Class, Cory F. Hiltz, 20 – Baghdad, Iraq, 6/28,07

• Marine Lance Cpl, Rogelio A. Ramirez, 21 – Al Anbar Province, Iraq, 8/26/07

• Army Specialist, William J. Gilbert, 24 – Sanjaray, Afghanistan, 5/14/13

• Army Sergeant, Joseph F. Stifter, 30 – Al Anbar Province, Iraq, 1/28/16

Unveiled in 2017, the statue, by artist Christopher Slatoff incorporated features of the faces into the 8-foot-tall sculpture of a service member carrying an American flag.

“It gave a chance for the city of Pasadena to recognize them permanently,” Studenmund says. “And I think that’s the big thing as a gold star mother: You don’t want anybody to ever forget your child.”

Jaynie Studenmund. (Courtesy Huntington Hospital)

Jaynie Studenmund was instrumental in helping make the sculpture a reality.

The statue incorporated facial features from each of the service members listed on it.

“A lot of people, when I’ve shared it with friends and family and Green Berets, have said, ‘what is the race? What is the ethnicity of this soldier?’ And that’s very intentional and something that we all love about it.”

Since it’s installation, the statue has become a “living monument,” attracting regular deposits of flowers and visits from community veterans. “We love that the soldier has become a part of the community.”

The mother said it was also important to recognize the many fathers, brothers, sisters who have lost loved ones to combat.

“I think about [my son] all the time, as just my husband, as his sister, as do his many friends,
she said.

The family recently gathered at the memorial to mark Scott Studenmund’s birthday, the mother said.

“We want to live the kind of life that our sons or daughters gave their lives for, and to appreciate life and to celebrate life” Jaynie Studenmund said. “Scott loved life. He was a happy guy. He had a lot of friends. And while he would want to be missed, he would want us to love life.”

Enduring Heroes Soldier Statue at Defenders Park. Photo Courtesy of Jaynie Studenmund.

“We just try to honor them, and there are tough moments. There’s no question,” she said.

An Enduring Heroes Memorial Fund has recently been established to preserve the monument and work toward prompting the local region “to take a leadership role in building awareness for our Armed Service members,” according to a statement from the Pasadena Community Foundation.

“This ongoing reminder is critical in a nation where less than one half of one percent of the population serves in our country’s military,” the statement said. “Enduring Heroes will work to pay tribute to our warrior heroes, build awareness for our veterans and the many worthy programs for them, and share our gratitude for those who have served and fought.”

More information on the Enduring Heroes Fund is available online at  pasadenacf.org/funds/enduring-heroes-memorial-fund.

More information on Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers Day is available online at the American Gold Star Mothers website at https://www.goldstarmoms.com.

See also:

Enduring Heroes Group Plans to Honor Local Soldiers of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Wars on Terror with Pasadena Monument

Defenders Parkway to Host Memorial Day Tribute to Pasadena’s Enduring Heroes

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